Friday, May 13, 2016

A Study in Super Heroes: Part Two -- Civil War (review)

Captain America: Civil War is a complicated movie full of complicated issues, but the main conflict centers around individual freedom. How much of our personal liberty, our personal right to make choices, should we give up for the well-being of the whole, for society? Should that ever be compelled?

That's a tough question in these days of border walls and religious exclusions. There is something to be said for providing protection and safety for society, but how much of our freedom should we give up for that? How much should be required and how much should be by choice?

But the actual question is, "Is the movie good?" That's not a tough question, though it does have a complication. If you've been following the Marvel movies, this movie is great. Incredible. It has everything in it you could want and Spider-Man! (And Spider-Man was amazing (Pun totally intended).)

The complication is that if you haven't been following the Marvel movies (and why haven't you!?!?), this is not the place to jump in. It's not enough to have just seen the Captain America movies or just seen the Avengers movies, you need to have seen all four of those to really understand what's happening in this movie. And, so, while I can understand that being frustrating for someone coming into this without the background, it's so very satisfying to see a complex story come together like this, and, honestly, in a way that I'm pretty sure has never been done before.

I'm tempted to break the movie down and walk through it, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I'm not going to do that. Also, there's no real reason to talk about the principal actors. All of them gave the kinds of performances you've come to expect. Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. are incomparable. And I love Anthony Mackie as The Falcon. I think he's tremendous.

However, let's look at the new guys:

Chadwick Boseman: The Black Panther has never been a character I've followed all that closely. Wakanda is interesting, but it's never been sustainable as a setting for a comic book series much like the ocean has never been sustainable as a setting for a Namor series (or an Aquaman one, for that matter). Inevitably, they have to bring those characters into "our" world, and they have never, at least back in when I was reading comics, managed to successfully integrate those characters in a way that made them interesting as primary characters. I hope that changes, because Boseman was excellent as the Panther. He brought just the right amount of gravitas to the role.

Tom Holland: Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a character I've followed closely. Since I was, like, four or five. Maguire's Spider-Man has remained one of my top three super hero movies and portrayals. He really just nailed the role. Holland seems to have returned to that mold, the geeky high school student, something never quite believable from Garfield. To cut it short, Holland was perfect. I have been ambivalent about another Spider-Man re-boot, but I'm now quite looking forward to Spider-Man: Homecoming (and not just because of the ties to this movie).

Emily VanCamp: Okay, so, technically, she's not a new-comer, but she steps up her role in Civil War, so I'm going to treat her as one. She's good. She's good opposite Evans, at any rate. I'd say I need to reserve judgement to see what they do with the character, but it's not clear there will be any further development for the character. At any rate, I'm satisfied.

Daniel Bruhl: Ah, now, this one could be controversial, because the Zemo of the movie is certainly not the Zemo of the comic books. I'm okay with that. The movie universe is not congruent with the comic universe. I'm okay with that, too. And it's probably better that Zemo wasn't running around with a purple hood on his head. Bruhl does a great job in the role. He's convincing. And that's really all anyone can ask of an actor: Did he make you believe?

It's fair to say that I'm biased in favor of these movies, but I think it's safe to say that my bias has somewhat negated by how successful they've been. Marvel has not just made flashy super hero movies; Marvel has made good, even great, movies. They just happen to have super heroes in them.


  1. True, this would be a difficult movie to jump into without seeing the others first. Too much background.
    They nailed everything with this film. I still might go see it again.
    And we'll find out if Aquaman can sustain his own movie because we're getting one...

    1. Alex: I like Jason Momoa, and I think he can pull off the role (much like Affleck as Batman), but Warner Brothers still has to come up with a script people like.

  2. The Captain America movies have really been the best of the Marvel films. I'm really glad the third one lived up to that.

    1. Jeanne: It has been a good arc, but I have to wait to see what happens in Ragnarok before making a decision. Okay, no, the Cap films have been awesome.

  3. Haven't seen it yet but pretty sure I will soon, though. I might have to do some quick catch up first. I'm one of the nine people who hasn't seen Age of Ultron.

    1. TAS: Oh, yeah, you need to see that. It's essential viewing. Much of what happens in Civil War is directly related to the events of Age of Ultron.